Aging and later life

As we age, we face many changes and many sources of stress – we are not as strong as we used to be, illness is more of a problem, children move away from home, people we love die, we may become lonely, and eventually we must give up our jobs and retire.

Coping with all these changes is difficult, but it can be done. The keys to coping include your long-term lifestyle, your ability to expect and plan for change, the strength of your relationships with family and friends, and your willingness to stay interested in and involved with life. Growing older is an experience we all share and many of us worry about – but it’s also a great opportunity for new experiences.

How physical changes can impact your mental health and wellbeing

As you grow older, your body will naturally change. You may get tired easier than you used to. You may become ill more often. You may not see or hear as well as you did when you were younger.

Here are some things you can do to cope with these changes:

Remember that slowing down does not mean you have to come to a complete stop. Chances are you will still be able to do almost all the things you used to; you may just need to take a little more time and learn to pace yourself – it’s important to look for the positives and avoid seeking the negatives.

As our bodies change, it can have an impact on how we view ourselves, this can have an impact on your mental health and wellbeing. It’s important to remember, you are still you!

 Adopt a balanced diet with fewer fatty foods, and try not to over-eat. Maintaining good healthy eating habits can help your mental health and overall wellbeing.

It can be easy to reach for a glass of your favourite drink to help you deal you’re your emotions, however, this can lead to you feeling worse about yourself when the effects of the alcohol start to wear off. As we get older, our bodies find it more difficult to cope with alcohol. Try switching your favourite alcoholic drink for a non-alcohol one.

Physical health problems are often the explanation for the link between mental health and ageing. Not all older people experience chronic pain or serious health diagnoses, but these challenges become more common as you age.

Trying to navigate life with pain or other physical symptoms can be extremely difficult and affect your mental health and wellbeing. Tasks that used to feel simple may now take a great deal of effort, which leaves you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.

 Side effects

Chronic pain and other physical health problems can take an emotional toll as they can make it more difficult to engage in your daily activities. However, certain conditions can also have a direct impact on your mental health.

For example, there is a clear and documented link between Parkinson’s disease and depression because of the neurological changes that occur in the brain as a result of the condition. Similarly, many older people experience an onset of a psychiatric disorder after having a stroke. Dementia and cognitive decline have a strong link to psychological disorders, too.

Medication side effects may play a role in ageing and mental health as well. If you’ve started taking prescriptions to manage a health condition, you might notice a change in your mood, energy level, or overall emotional state.

Six Ways That Ageing Can Affect Your Mental and Emotional Health

1. Fear of ageing

Later life can be a great time to connect with family and reflect on your life, but they can also be a source of fear and anxiety for some older people. Ageing brings about a lot of uncertainty, and this can take an emotional toll.

Fear of the overall ageing process is common among older adults, especially those who have been diagnosed with a serious health condition or have a family history of health problems. You might feel overwhelmed with worry that you’ll lose your independence or your quality of life if your health takes a turn for the worse. Anxiety about death and dying is also a common experience.

 As we age, we face many changes and many sources of stress – we are not as strong as we used to be, illness can be more of a problem, children move away from home, people we love can get sick or pass away, we may become lonely, and eventually we must give up our jobs and retire. Coping with all these changes is difficult, but it can be done.

The keys to coping include your long-term lifestyle, your ability to expect and plan for change, the strength of your relationships with family and friends, and your willingness to stay positive, interested and involved with life.

It is, therefore, very important to think carefully about what will happen to you as you age and how you are going to deal with the changes that will happen.

2. Loss of Identity

Many older adults struggle with their sense of self as they age. For example, if you’ve spent your whole life taking care of others in your family, you may go through an identity crisis if you develop a health condition and someone else needs to take care of you instead. If your sense of belonging and purpose came primarily from your work, you might feel lost after retirement.

Loss of identity can be both a cause and a symptom of depression in older people. When older adults don’t have opportunities to find joy, fulfilment, and purpose in their day-to-day lives, they may start to feel depressed about ageing. At the same time, depression can cause further issues with your sense of purpose or self-worth.

It’s important to realise you are not alone, and to talk with family and friends about how you are feeling.

3. Preparing for retirement

Retiring is a big life event, and can leave some people feeling like they’ve lost their identity. It can be an excellent opportunity to take time for yourself and explore new hobbies.

Here are some top-tips for retiring:

  • Get planning what you will do with your time. When you’ve been working very hard for most of your adult life and most likely working long hours, you tend not to have had any time for hobbies.
  • Start thinking about a hobby or interest that you would like to pursue -something you may have wanted to try for years! For example, art, cooking or joining a walking club.
  • Make more friends – your social circle gets smaller when you leave work. You could join a club, do an evening class, or simply invite a neighbour over for a cuppa.
  • Be positive – go out and do things. There are so many free things to do in Rotherham. When you retire, you can feel like you lose your identity. But you still have a contribution to make to life as an older person.
  • Don’t be negative, look for the positive things in life. Try meditation and every night before you go to bed try to think of at least 3 good things that you are grateful for.
  • Get to grips with technology – it’s not the easiest of things but technology can really allow you to do a lot of things – it allows you to keep in touch with family all over the world and learn so many different things.

4.Coping with retirement

Your retirement can be a major source of stress because your job is usually a very important part of your life. This stress may be even greater if you have been forced to retire because of your employer’s retirement policies. You may lose your sense of identity and feel less worthwhile. You will probably miss the daily contact with friends from work.

However, retirement can be one of the best times of your life, and there are things you can do to meet the challenges facing you, such as:

Make a list of your abilities and skills

The skills and experience you have gained from a lifetime of work may help you succeed in a small business or do valuable volunteer work for a charity.

Reach out to friends and family

All too often, our work gets in the way of our relationships and those we care about.

Renew your interest in the hobbies and activities you enjoy

You now have time to play – enjoy!

If you can afford it, travel.

There are probably places you have wanted to see all your life. The early years of your retirement can be the ideal time to travel.

5. Loss of loved ones

Bereavement affects people of all ages, but loss often becomes more common as you get older. The loss of a spouse, sibling, friend, or any other loved one can be incredibly painful. After a lifetime of knowing and loving the person, you have to adjust to a new life without them.

There is a clear connection between mental health and ageing, but this doesn’t mean that your mental health is doomed to decline as you get older. Many people experience their happiest and most meaningful years later in life because they have the supports in place to help them stay well.

It is important to remember the following ways of coping with your grief:

Do not deny your feelings. Losing someone to death is like being wounded, and you need to heal. It is important to give yourself time to work through your grief.

Accept the range of emotions you will feel. Tears, anger and guilt are all normal reactions.

Remember and talk about the person you have lost. They were an important part of your life. Although your grief will pass, your memories will always stay with you. Talking will help you and those around you to understand your grief so they can be there to support you.

Look to your family and friends for support. They can help you through the difficult period and beyond.

6. Dealing with loneliness

Everyone needs some time alone, but being alone when you don’t want to be can be very painful. Loneliness can in some cases lead to you feeling like you are losing your sense of purpose and self-worth. As children and grandchildren become more involved in their own lives, it is important for you to find ways to cope with loneliness.

You may want to consider some of the following suggestions:

Stay active and look to make new friends

There are lots of groups in Rotherham communities which can help replace the support that used to be provided by family and life-long friends, they are also a great way to try new activities and make new friends.

Try to make friends with people of different ages.

You may be pleasantly surprised to find how much you have in common with someone 15 or 20 years younger than you!

Spend time with grandchildren and family

Spending time with your grandchildren will not only brighten up your day and give  you something to look forward to it will also help out your children who may be struggling to fit everything in. Volunteering is another great way to help energise you, you could see if a local school or community group has a need for volunteers.

Local and National Support

If someone you care for is experiencing memory loss, forgetfulness or dementia, Rotherham Dementia Carer Support Service is here for you.

 Supporting you to enjoy life is at the heart of everything Making Space does.

Grief can be overwhelming. You don’t have to deal with it alone.

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